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INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of women in Indianapolis are part of the adult entertainment and sex industry. For some, it is by choice. For others, it is by circumstance or coercion.
A young Indianapolis woman has made it her mission to build a bridge for women in this industry who need job transition support, connections to resources and simply unconditional love and friendship.
"Typically people over-glamorize or over-villainize the industry," said Sarah Daniels, the founder of Unconditional Indy. "And the truth lays in the middle."
The truth takes a special kind of love. Daniels would call it unconditional.
"Sex workers and dancers are just women, they are mothers. Eighty-five percent of our women have kids. They are just trying to provide for their families," Daniels said. "A majority of the women I work with have been completely on their own since they were anywhere between 14 and 18 years old. So when you are 14 to 18 years old and you don't have a way to provide for yourself financially, you do what you have to do to survive. And that is how a lot of the women I have met entered sex work."
On the third Thursday of each month, a team visits six local strip clubs and Daniels leads the charge.
"I am not here to tell women that they can't dance," Daniels said. "We are here for just whatever people need, and the primary need is community because society has made it not a safe thing to talk about with other people."
Daniels founded Unconditional in 2012 after seeing the barriers women in her community face every day.
"There are thousands of dancers in Indianapolis, plus all the underground clubs that are not being reported," Daniels said. "A lot of what we do is connecting them to resources that we have helped educate and vet out to know that this is sex worker safe for you to go to."
Daniels' organization connects women with resources like workforce development, mental health services and support groups.
"We have seen a huge surge of women reaching out to us from all kinds of the sex work," Daniels said.
Daniels said more dancers are turning to street and online work as the pandemic has shut down clubs on and off since February.
"For a lot of my friends that could provide for their families before, were all of a sudden facing evictions and true poverty, and so we restructured how we do everything," Daniels said. "We started doing food boxes every week, we started doing a pantry here, we have a clothing pantry and then we added the evening class as a means to help build that community."
Unconditional is now a full time job for Daniels. She works out of Indy Metro Church. Daniels relies on donors to help her support the dancers with rent and utilities.
"When anyone is in a desperate situation, when you don't have money, when you don't have a backup system, you are going to make decisions that you wouldn't normally make to provide for your children and to provide for yourself," Daniels said. "I wish people would see a balance of empathy to understand that their situation might be different than they think without pitying them. Because these are some of the most strong and amazing women that I have ever met in my life."
Click here for information on Unconditional.